I would like to thank Margaret Ransom for her letter to the Cortez Journal on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012, and on behalf of Southwest Memorial Hospital apologize for any past misinformation that she may have been provided. As CEO of the hospital, I feel that it is my responsibility to provide clarification about our financial policies as they relate to patient care, as well as a couple of other issues that have raised in the Journal recently.
Outside experts believe that our region has the highest rate of uninsured individuals in the entire United States, so this is information that we track closely. About 30 percent of Southwest Memorial Hospital’s patients have health insurance that reimburses at a level above the actual cost to deliver the care. Medicare and Medicaid both reimburse at a level far below the cost to deliver care. The reality is that we lose money on about 70 percent of the patients we care for, a situation typical is many hospitals in the country.
Southwest Memorial Hospital and all of its outpatient locations accept CICP (Colorado Indigent Care Program) and several other assistance programs. We routinely see, Medicaid patients from Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, and Utah. In 2011 we provided $14.4 million in uncompensated care. This included care for 321 individuals with CICP, 711 individuals and families under our own charity care program, and 9,115 Medicaid patients. In January 2012, we saw 97 individuals with CICP. We have in the past and will continue to accept and see CICP patients. In addition to accepting all of these programs, for patients who are uninsured, we offer a cash-pay discount plan, and we offer payment plan options for individuals who have larger balances due after their insurance plan pays the allowed portion of the bill.
With regard to the patient that triggered the civil rights complaint, there was never a court case involved. We steadfastly protect patient privacy, so I cannot comment on the specifics of that situation, except to say that the patient did not go to court to receive care as was stated in Ms. Ransom’s letter to the editor. Interested individuals can read the settlement document in its entirety on the home page of the hospital website (www.swhealth.org).
Two points raised by Mr. Bob Becker on February 18, 2012, also require clarification. First, Southwest Health System has no operational, management, or ownership interest in any nursing home, and has not had for many years. Second, as an independent 501(c)(3) organization, SHS is not a taxing authority and receives no tax benefit or contributions. Funds collected from county residents go to the Montezuma County Hospital District for their use. TABOR is not a factor when it comes to the business operations of Southwest Memorial Hospital.
There has been a hospital in Cortez for almost 100 years, and never before have we seen so much turmoil in the healthcare industry. There are dozens of already approved and pending federal and state laws and regulatory changes that will have broad and dramatic impacts on hospitals across this country over the next three years. The Affordable Care Act will also have significant impacts on local businesses and each of us individually as citizens of this country. By looking to the future and being efficient, creative, and innovative, we intend to ensure that Cortez has an economically viable hospital that provides high quality care for another 100 years.
In my 27 years working in hospitals, I’ve never been associated with a more professional and dedicated group than the staff and physicians at Southwest Memorial. It is a privilege and pleasure to watch them work every day. The quality of care provided here is equal to or better than any other hospital in the area, and exceeds the Colorado and National averages in virtually all of the 42 nationally reported quality indicators. Compare us to other hospitals by going to www.HospitalCompare.gov.
I am happy to personally site down face-to-face with anyone to discuss the hospital’s financial information, charity and indigent programs, as well as details pertaining to any of the pending legislative and regulatory changes slated to take place over the next three years. Call my office at 564-2146 to set up a time to talk this week. To get clarification, details, or apply for any medical benefit program, contact our Patient Financial Services office at 564-2143.
Kent Helwig is the CEO and administrator of Southwest Memorial Hospital.